At the beginning of my adoption journey, I was a happily married early thirties successful professional. I had all the things that I’d always aspired to. The rewarding career, the executive home, the nice car, three foreign holidays a year, weekends at the coast, a gorgeous little dog, an amazing group of friends and a great social life. In spite of all of these things, there was a gap. As time went on, the gap was becoming more of an issue. Although my husband and I were happy, we both yearned for a child to complete our picture of domestic bliss. The sadness that it didn’t happen was corrosive. We had delayed starting a family whilst I went to University, established my career etc. It seemed terribly unfair that when the time was right, we struggled so hard to have a baby.
Never one to admit defeat, I was constantly seeking a solution to our problem. At lunchtime one day at work, a possible solution presented itself. Reading the local paper whilst eating a sandwich, I stumbled across an advert for a local Adoption Society. With support from a friend and colleague, I made the initial call that day. Life swiftly changed. There were weekend courses to attend, pamphlets to read and before you could say boo we were being presented to panel. What we didn’t know, when we had the call to say we had been approved, was that we were being matched during our approval. Panel was on the Thursday. Friday morning we had the call to go into the offices on Monday.
We then saw the pictures of our children, who we met for the first time the next week. A further five days and they came home!
No amount of reading prepares you for the reality of parenting two damaged children, 24/7. Like many couples, we struggled as we discovered that we had completely different parenting styles, alongside very different expectations. Together with work, the complexities of parenting traumatised children and the complete change of lifestyle were too big a shock. The marriage broke. My husband decide that he didn’t want to adopt the weekend before we were due in court for the adoption order.
I decided he should leave and I’d continue on the journey alone. He was shocked and angry, I was bitterly disappointed.
After the legal bits were sorted, I was a single mum. As any single mum knows, it isn’t easy to find time for yourself. Life revolved around work, school, nursery and all the events that children are invited to. Every waking moment was full. As the children settled into routine and I settled back into my work role, I realised it was actually a little bit lonely!
I decided, after a while, that it was time to venture out and have a little bit of a life again as me, not just as a mum.
The next question was “How do I meet people?” I’d been in a relationship since I was 17! I hadn’t dated for 18 years! The thought was terrifying! It took me quite a while to pluck up the courage. My lovely friends took me out on the town. The girls took me dancing, but I was constantly clock watching, checking in with the babysitter. In the words of my bestie, it was like going out with Mrs Doubtfire! Lol.
Having a night out with the girls was fun, but we were a bit intimidating as a group. The only men I was meeting were really not my type. I was wondering what next? I decided that online dating could be the solution. I could screen all the candidates from the comfort of my sofa. Perfect! What I didn’t realise then, was there was a whole new language to learn! There was a complete etiquette! There was I thinking that the profile pictures were up to date and realistic.
My delusions were shattered on date one – the guy I was meeting
looked like the grandad of the fella in the profile as he struggled to make it into the upstairs coffee lounge where we met! I felt obliged to stay and have a drink after he’d driven all that way! I was rather worried the excitement of a trip out might be too much for him and he may not make it home! Lesson one learned!
The language issue was soon apparent! “Fun” meant “frolics”, for “interesting hobby” read “fetish” – you get the idea! There were some boring dates, like the accountant who took me out for a meal then told me he didn’t like to converse whilst eating! There were comic ones – the guy who lied about his height, as if I wouldn’t notice he was actually 5’4” not 5’10” and spent the evening talking to my chest and chasing me around like Benny Hill! There was the one who brought his sister along, in case I stood him up. There were the married ones, who all thought their wives didn’t understand them!
One thing I was very clear about, from the start, was that I didn’t want my children involved. I didn’t want them to have a series of “uncles”! Quite a few men I met, along the way, were horrified that I was only looking for dates and I didn’t want a relationship. A few were rather cross that they couldn’t move in and be part of a ready-made family! What I realised, quite early on, was that most people had no concept at all of how it is to live with a traumatised child. In many ways, staying single was the easier option.
A whole decade after I became single, I finally took the step of getting involved. This only became possible because my eldest child, the more challenging one, was attending a residential therapeutic school. With the support of family and friends as babysitters, I was finally able to relax, go out for an evening and not worry what I would come home to. There have been false starts along the way. I’ve had to make difficult choices. I chose to walk away from relationships that weren’t perfect. I did so for me, but most of all for my children. I need them to know that there’s no such thing as “good enough for now”! I don’t ever want them to settle for second best. I had to step up and say “We are worth more than that”.
It has been a bumpy road. There have been lots of laughs and also a few tears
along the way. I have learned that I am much stronger than I ever imagined, I know that I can absolutely manage on my own. That’s why I can now relax and enjoy my relationship. Life is still ridiculously busy. Work, being mum’s taxi, trying to make time for friends and relatives. Somehow, though, I manage to find time for me. I make it a priority to set aside time each week to spend with my partner. It’s great to be part of a team again. Not to always have to make all the decisions – I know! Stop laughing! I know I’m a little bit bossy, a bit of a control freak! Lol.
It’s fifteen years now since I began my Adoption Journey. There are still lots of challenges. Overall, we are in a good place. Life is nothing like I imagined it would be. I’m lucky to share it with my two beautiful children, my wonderful friends – who are almost exclusively fellow adopters these days – my family and a fabulous partner who is working really hard at understanding therapeutic parenting and developmental trauma. We enjoy little moments of “normal” life. We are looking forward to the future.
My advice, to other singlies, is simple. Get out there, have a laugh, meet some people. There are a lot of strange folk out there, but there are some lovely ones too. Set your standards high, but be prepared to make exceptions. There will be some disappointments, but dust yourself off and keep trying! Enjoy the journey!